The next great leap ahead in computer performance won’t come from multi-core CPUs, despite all the media hype to the contrary. The biggest bottleneck in your computer RIGHT NOW is that big, fat, lazy hard disk drive. It is the ONLY part of your system (besides cooling, of course) that still uses that most ancient of technologies, Moving Parts. The situation is so bad, in fact, that software engineers go to great lengths to avoid EVER reading from the hard drive. Gustavo Duarte makes a good point:
The latency to a fast website (say, google.com) is about 45ms, comparable to hard drive seek latency. In fact, while hard drives are 5 orders of magnitude removed from main memory, they’re in the same magnitude as the Internet. Residential bandwidth still lags behind that of sustained hard drive reads, but the ‘network is the computer’ in a pretty literal sense now. What happens when the Internet is faster than a hard drive?
In other words, we need to get past this bottleneck, or Moore’s Law is going to quickly become meaningless. Here is a short summary of hard disk drive replacements that actually have a chance at making it to your desktop in the near future:
Solid-State Drives (SSD) are fast (250 MB/s), expensive, very efficient (0.15 Watts), and you can buy one today. Linus says that Intel SSDs are the only ones to buy.
Hard Rectangular Drives (HRD) are crazy fast (500 MB/s) but expensive. Their first target is high-end database servers.
Metal Foil Drives (MFD) are fast (~250 MB/s), cheap, extremely reliable, and efficient. MFD’s are not yet available, but the technology is patented and Cringely is working on it.
Update: Intel recently announced cheaper, faster SSDs.
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